Kent Bush: Trump phenomenon is nothing new in political silly season
After professional golfers wrap up their competitive season each year, the best and most popular among their ranks get to participate in what has been called the “Silly Season.”
They play skins games, father-son challenges, three tour challenges and made-for-television matches that people watch because they get more access to their favorite golfers in a relaxed environment. Everyone makes “Caddyshack” and “Tin Cup” jokes, and they laugh all the way to the bank.
In presidential politics, the silly season comes before the real competition.
Everyone is making a big deal about Donald Trump leading the pack of 16 Republican presidential candidates. But having a well-known but unlikely candidate lead early in the process is nothing new or even unusual.
You don’t have to look to history to see evidence of these meteorite campaigns that burn hot as they enter the atmosphere before crashing to the earth soon after they are first seen. All you need to know about this phenomenon can be seen in the 2012 Republican primary.
Does anyone remember former Arkansas governor and Fox News “analyst” Mike Huckabee leading all candidates in early in 2011? By April of that year his campaign bus was parked for good.
As he faded away, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann entered the race and brought tea party street cred with her. She jumped into second place in July of 2011 before the shine began to fade from her star power.
Rick Perry threw his hat into the ring as Bachmann was losing momentum, and he soon led everyone. Even sooner, he faded out of the race and went and got some new glasses. There were three reasons he left the race, but I can only remember two of them.
And then, the 9-9-9 campaign of Herman Cain, who claimed to have a simple fix for America’s tax policy, rose as Perry fell. Cain burned out under the weight of multiple revelations of sexual harassment allegations and the fact that his campaign platform sounded like a German yelling “No! No! No!”
After Cain left the race and headed to a great career sharing homespun wisdom on talk radio, Newt Gingrich shot to the top of the charts.
America’s Republicans soon remembered why they stopped liking Gingrich years ago and Rick Santorum was sucked into the vacuum created by all of these candidates as they left the race.
But his sweater vests just couldn’t overtake Mitt Romney, who had steadily polled at high levels during the entire primary.
That is what you are seeing with Trump and these other upstart candidates who look like they will knock Jeb Bush or Scott Walker out of the race.
They are only popular because voters don’t know much about them. They are the crazy person who, on the fifth date, is nothing like you expected after that fun first date.
Even as he leads all candidates and polls and tells crowds that he believes he will win the nomination, the realist in Trump is talking out of the other side of his mouth.
Trump already threatening to run as a third-party candidate if the RNC continues to be unsupportive of him.
“They were always supportive when I was a contributor,” Trump said this week. “I was their fair-haired boy.”
Fair-haired boy? Come on, now. He is writing the jokes for us.
Does anyone remember Ross Perot? Bill Clinton would have never left Arkansas if that wacky, self-funded Texan wouldn’t have created the Reform Party and stolen votes from George H.W. Bush’s re-election campaign. He ran again in 1996 to make sure Clinton won again.
Splitting the Republican votes into Trump lovers and those who don’t need counseling would be a huge benefit another Clinton if Hillary were to win the Democratic primary as expected.
Trump on a third party ticket is a nightmare scenario for Republicans, but it seems to be one that they are helping create. He is consuming all of the interest from the early part of the race for GOP candidates. This is elevating him and stunting the growth curves of the other candidates in the field.
Unfortunately for the GOP establishment, they can’t do anything but hang around and wait for the Trump fire to burn out and hope that someone can convince him not to split the vote in 2016.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.